Woodworking Without Borders
Imagine going to work every day and looking out your window at blue skies, tropical vegetation, and a smoking volcano. Anyone who has visited our shop knows this definitely is NOT what we see, but it is the view from a very special carpentry shop on Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala. Since 2016, Columbus Barrel Co has been proud to help sponsor a carpentry shop in Guatemala, but our connection with this amazing organization goes back much further than that. In 1999, our parents adopted our younger sister, Cara, from the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala City (now known as San Miguel del Lago). That little 3-year old spitfire changed our family for the better and opened our eyes to life in a Third World country. Over 1,000 children have passed through the doors of the Hogar since our sister left – some being adopted by families in countries around the world, some returning to life with biological families, some going on to study at colleges in Guatemala and Russia, and others making a life for themselves in Guatemala. Although our parents have supported this orphanage over the years through visits, and monetary and in-kind donations, we were excited to get directly involved ourselves when we opened CBC.
The Carpinteria shop was originally started by a generous donor who wanted to help the teenagers learn a skill to take into the world after they left the Hogar. Over the years, many kids helped with sanding, building, and designing projects, but one girl really fell in love with carpentry work and stuck with it. Astrid is now a young-adult who runs the carpentry shop and makes her living by it. She built all of the benches for the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity church, made 600 cheeseboards for a local winery, designed and painted custom tee markers for a local golf course, and creates beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and home good items she sells at San Miguel.
The carpentry shop is truly incredible, with a ShopBot, spray booth, and all kinds of electric and hand tools. Check out this intricate lamp that was cut entirely by hand using a jigsaw! That’s true craftsmanship.
There are piles of prepared wood ready to be made into the next great project, and other piles of raw coffee tree limbs that Astrid still has to prep for use. Right now, it’s just Astrid and another young adult, Isabel, who work in the shop, but this fall, two more former San Miguel residents will graduate from an art school in Russia and return to Guatemala to work with Astrid, designing new products and building. With the additional carpenters, Astrid hopes to begin sourcing used bourbon and wine barrels to start a new line of products. We are so excited about this endeavor and sent a box of barrel staves (and some barrel apparel, of course!) to get her started. Stay tuned for updates on this project!
If anyone would like to help support the carpentry shop at San Miguel, you can make an online tax-deductible donation through the Friends of the Hogar Rafael Ayau 501c3 organization at www.friendsofthehogar.org. Click the donate button and in the fund section, put a note by “other” that designates your donation for Astrid or the carpentry shop.